Skin Cancer Danger: Not Just in Summer
Snow on the ground doesn't mean you don't have to worry about sun exposure. Sunburns -- and skin cancer -- can happen even in winter months.
The Skinny of Vulnerability continued...
Here are some of the reasons why Australians are so vulnerable
to the disease and how the same hazards could affect Americans and
'Who's the fairest of them all?' Most Australians
migrated from Northern European territories. "We're basically a pale-skin
population living in a dark-skinned people's land," Slevin explains.
"We've been here for only a little over 200 years and our skin hasn't
adapted to the ultraviolet radiation that we're exposed to."
Slevin says the growth of international travel by Americans and
Europeans to warm, sunny lands during the fall and winter months has also
increased their amount of UV exposure.
Skin is in. In Australia, the U.S., and Europe, exposure
to the sun has apparently increased with a strong cultural desire for
light-skinned people to get a tan and with a change in dress since the early
"People used to shun the sun with their hats and
parasols," says Martin Weinstock, MD, PhD, chairman of the skin cancer
advisory group for the American Cancer Society. Now, showing bare midriffs and
more leg, even outside the beach, is acceptable in many parts of the western
Fun in the sun. If it's sunny out, people in Australia
tend to go to the beach and play, says Kendra Sundquist, PhD, spokeswoman for
The Cancer Council New South Wales. The same could certainly be said of people
in other parts of the globe. With a host of outdoor activities from surfing to
in-line skating to gardening, there are plenty of reasons for people to venture
outside on nice days.
Unfortunately for people down under, Australia is situated in
an area of the planet that is closest to the sun in summertime, which means
more intense UV exposure.
Exposure to the sun's harmful rays isn't limited to one area of
the world, however. Each country's UV levels vary in different seasons,
depending on their geography. And in a large place like the United States, the
variables are even greater. The UV levels in Florida, for example, are
different from those in Maine, explains Weinstock.
In addition, UV radiation doesn't necessarily depend on
temperature or season, as more people get sunburned in Australia in the cooler
days of fall and spring, says Craig Sinclair, chairman of The Cancer Council
Australia's skin cancer committee. It is reportedly likely that UV light can
cause more damage at this time because people don't normally think of sun
protection during the fall and winter.
Again, this is not purely an Aussie phenomenon. Sinclair notes
that worldwide, UV radiation goes up 3% for every 400 meters (about 1,312 feet)
of altitude. Plus, UV light is reflected from snow (about 80%), and from clouds
on overcast days. This could mean a double dose of exposure.